I like to watch horror films from all genres, years, and countries: I can see a mainstream Hollywood film and, the next day, an unfamiliar independent work. Naturally, I usually watch the newer movies, but sometimes I get to see another classic or a lesser-known film from the past. The problem is that there is too much horror and too little time to see it (unfortunately, you can’t completely give up sleep. Believe me, I tried). When it comes to horror movies, I feel mostly like I am the target audience, so the specific film is made for me just by being a horror movie. But sometimes the opposite happens: There are movies here and there that are not really for me, like the super hit “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie.
On paper, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a film that horror fans should see. It is based on a successful computer game series and has been on the radar for years. Although critics and many horror fans haven’t raved about the film, to say the least, it’s grossed nearly $300 million worldwide so far, breaking many records like the highest-grossing horror film of 2023 and best opening for Blumhouse. The meaning is clear: It’s one of the most talked about and successful horror movies of 2023. So why, during the movie, did I think more than once that this movie wasn’t for me?
Five Nights At Freddy’s: The Game That Caused Hysteria
I’m not too familiar with the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game series, also known as “FNAF” by people who like to write it short and get other people to stop reading for a few seconds and think what the hell these letters should represent. I’ve never played any of the “FNAF” (ah ah!) games. To prepare myself and the movie and understand the hype around it, I did a little research, which mostly consisted of watching people uploading videos of themselves playing it to YouTube. I even played for a whole three minutes on one of the games I found online. In between, I understood the framework story or, if you will, the game’s primary goal.
The hero of the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” games is Mike Schmidt, a night guard at a family pizzeria called “Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.” If you have children, you surely know that this pizzeria is the kind of parent’s wet dream: a combination of a pizzeria, a family entertainment center, and animatronic mascots that are supposed to sing, dance, and amuse the children while the parents eat junk food and look at their smartphones. The star is Freddy Fazbear, the brown bear. In addition to him, you will find Bonnie the indigo rabbit, Chica the yellow chicken, Foxy the pirate fox, and Mr. Cupcake.
The problem is that this place turns out to be a nightmare very quickly. After the pizzeria is closed, these animatronic mascotsroam around looking for victims. The idea in the first game (released back in 2014) and in the ones after it is that the player steps into the shoes of the guard, who has to spend five nights in the restaurant. During the shifts, he mainly watches the security cameras, monitors the ventilation openings and decides which doors to open and lock in order to protect himself from the monsters. The goal is to survive the nights. In the process, there are various considerations he has to take into account, such as the limited amounts of electricity. The gamer also faces puzzles, media records, and riddles through which you understand a bit of the background story.
This basic idea sustained a series that may have seemed niche at first, especially if you compare it to other monstrous games that received film adaptations (say, “Resident Evil” or the variations of “Super Mario”). Despite this,”Five Nights at Freddy’s” game series has grown exponentially and is estimated to have grossed over $100 million with sequels, spin-offs, and many related products – Like duh. The idea developed throughout the games and received several new directions, such as a game set in several locations and a requested transition to 3D, insted of the traditional and old-fashioned 2D.
Here is a short video that ranks the games in the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” series:
One piece of evidence for its cultural importance is that every month, more than 7K people in The United States are looking for the term “Five Nights at Freddy’s porn” in Google. Research or not, I was too afraid to google it and see what it meant. You are welcome to do it in your spare time and tell us what you found.
Of course, there is also a motion picture, which we will get to in a moment.
How Did Five Nights At Freddy’s Movie Come To Life?
The horror film inspired by “Five Nights at Freddy’s” has been talked about for many years, yet it seemed to be the type of project that gets stuck at a certain point for too long. In 2015, the film adaptation was supposed to happen in cooperation with Warner Brothers, but various delays in the production caused the company to abandon the project. Universal Studio bought the rights and transferred the production to Blumhouse, which is responsible for some of the biggest horror hits of recent years (such as the films “Insidious,” “Paranormal Activity,” “M3gan”, “Get Out” and “Invisible”). A lot of Blumhouse movies don’t get positive reviews, but most of them are doing well at the box office.
The directing was Entrusted to the lesser-known Emme Tammy, who co-wrote the screenplay with the game’s creator Scott Cawthon, alongside Seth Cuddeback. “Five Nights At Freddy’s” cast includes Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games”), the legendary Matthew Lillard (“Scream,” “Scooby Doo” ), and Elizabeth Lail (“You,” and especially the cute “Countdown” movie about a killer app).
If you thought the basic plot here would involve nerve-wracking nights in a restaurant, trying to stay alive against murderous dolls that kills stupid characters in a cruel and bleeding fashion, then it only sort of does it. A few years ago, “Willy’s Wonderland” was released, starring Nicolas Cage. The film, which dealt with a normal guy who arrives at an abandoned restaurant called “Willy’s Wonderland” and fights for his life against a group of animatronic mascots, along with a group of young annoying characters, was – to put it mildly – a pretty clear imitation of the plot of the game “Five Nights at Freddy’s .”
Maybe for this reason, or because the creators thought that the basic plot of the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” games would have difficulty sustaining a feature movie, they chose a somewhat strange and primarily unconvincing plot line here.
Too Little Freddy, Too Late
Mike (Hutcherson), the film’s hero, is a man full of flaws. He raises his creative little sister Abby (the charming Piper Rubio), alone, with no woman in picture. Mike is orphaned by his parents and suffering from post-trauma from a tragic event in his childhood: the kidnapping of his little brother during a family picnic in the woods, an event from which he has not recovered to this day. So much so, when Mike works as a mall security guard, he makes a silly mistake and thinks he is Bruce Willis or something. He misidentifies an innocent case in which a father takes his son as a kidnap, ending in a chase that culminates in vigorous beatings inside a mall fountain. He is fired, of course.
Mike is looking for a job, while at the same time, his evil aunt is interested in custody of the girl, or instead, the allowance she will grow if she adopts her. He turns to a career counselor (Lillard), who offers him precisely one job: to be a night guard inside an abandoned pizzeria. Mike agrees, of course, and quickly discovers that the pizzeria has some animatronic secrets. For example, during the 1980s it was closed, after five kids have been murdered there.
Here is the official “Five Nights At Freddy’s” movie trailer:
From here, you can take the story in several directions. A movie about murderous animatronics chasing down a hapless security guard and killing everyone who isn’t the hero sounds like a lot of fun on paper. It does happen in part of the film, but much more is needed. The movie deals too much with Mike’s past trauma and does so in a somewhat clumsy way: too many flashbacks in the woods, kids who are supposed to be creepy but are mainly annoying, and so on.
In the end, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” tries to connect the ends and somehow links the past and the present. There are also twists that explain the motivation of some of the characters. These are the moments when the film goes in several other directions, of ghost films, for example, and corresponds with other works such as “Chucky” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”The problem is the result, at least in my opinion, is too messy,
It’s hard to say that “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a terrible movie. It has some beautiful moments, such as a solid opening scene. The meeting with the puppets, when it happens, does the job in some cases. Don’t expect expensive computer animation here or characters embroidering skin and tendons as if they were Gollum, because the budget is quite limited – about 20 million dollars. They are a special and a little creepy, but no one of these characters will reach cult status or go viral, like that M3gan from Blumhouse. I still need to remember some of the dolls a few days after I atched the movie, and none of them will enter the list of the scariest dolls of horror cinema.
Should You Watch The Five Nights At Freddy’s Movie?
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” has a bit of everything, but mostly not enough. The film was rated PG-13, so the goal is apparently to appeal to as broad a target audience as possible. Although a horror rat like me always prefers a little more extreme movies, there are times when even a movie rated PG-13 manages to scare or tense.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” does not succeed in the task. To be a pure pleasure or even a cult film, it had to be more disturbing, funnier, scarier, and, of course, bloodier. There are some kills, but the feeling is that the movie misses the target. It takes itself too seriously, and in the case of a film about mascots that dance, sing, talk and kill, this is a significant drawback. Worse is that the movie is probably aimed at a young audience or one that knows the games, and I unfortunately do not fulfill any of these conditions.
Another problem is that the film does not sweep us emotionally into a story that has potential, and the result is a bit boring. As in many horror movies, the reason is probably a combination of script and acting, at least for some characters. The attempt In “Five Nights At Freddy’s” was to focus on the emotional story and the main character’s past, but for that to happen, we must care more about the hero or his story.
Paraphrasing the name of the character he plays in “The Hunger Games”, Hutcherson comes off a bit “pitta”, and not the successful kind – his character is thin, flat, not baked enough, and without too much content inside. I think he can act much better. Lail tries to do her best as a police officer who gets too attached to the story for some kind of reason (oops), but the script doesn’t give her too many opportunities to create emotional depth and identification. Lillard, in a tie-dyed role that differs from some of the crazy characters he played throughout his career, looks as if he would instead ditch the official performance and get inside one of the dolls in the pizzeria.
I believe I will not become an avid player of the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” games. I’m also trying to decide whether this movie is much better than other similar movies, including that tongue-swallowing Nicolas Cage impersonation mentioned earlier. You can watch the movie, of course, if you like this kind of PG-13 movie, doll films, or are interested in understanding the buzz. Just don’t expect to much.